Thursday, April 21, 2016

Study of mountaintop removal's impact on Central Appalachian salamanders wins research prize

Eastern Kentucky stream affected by mountaintop
(Univ. of Kentucky photo by Matt Barton)
A 2014 study that found mountaintop-removal coal mining is endangering salamanders in Central Appalachia has netted lead researcher Steven Price the Senior Research Award for outstanding research by the Association of Southeastern Biologists, Carol Lea Spence reports for the University of Kentucky, where Price is a professor.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, was co-authored by Breneé Muncy, Simon Bonner, Andrea Drayer and Christopher Barton.

Researchers studied 23 streams in Eastern Kentucky, Spence reports in a separate story. Mountaintop removal "results in a great deal of overburden material—rocks and soil—which is often poured into adjacent valleys, covering all or portions of headwater streams found there. In addition, valley filling can change water chemistry through leaching and surface runoff. Salamanders are the main vertebrates in these low-order streams—shallow streams that occasionally can go dry—where their populations are vital to a balanced ecosystem."

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